Smith, Bend But Don't Break

A reserved airplane ticket from Columbus to New York has become quite the norm for Matt Smith. The middle-reliever returned to the Columbus Clippers on July 8th after his third stint in the Bronx. Smith sat down with PinstripesPlus.com to discuss his latest trip to New York and the necessary improvements to make his return.

Matt Smith, 27, was recalled to New York for the first time on April 14th and made his Major League debut at Minnesota, retiring the only batter he faced. That hitter just happened to be American League batting leader Joe Mauer.

In three stints with the Yankees, Smith has not allowed an earned run over twelve innings and has nine strikeouts.

During his time in Columbus, Smith has not allowed an earned run in 16 of 21 appearances, possessing a 2.28 ERA. With only six earned runs in 24 innings, Smith has been labeled with a "bend but don't break" mentality. The consistency Smith has delivered to the Columbus pitching staff has earned him the right to make multiple trips to the Bronx.

Having to make three return trips to the minor leagues can be very lagging and annoying. It is the exact opposite for Smith. Smith is in the process of paying his dues and it may all be well worth it down the road. The southpaw believes playing in Columbus can only help him become an improved reliever out of the bullpen. Smith admits he has more of a focus this time around.

"I think the first two times I came back here I kind of took everything for granted," Smith told PinstripesPlus.com.

Control has been the only issue with Smith in New York. The reliever was fortunate enough to work around many of the walks he surrendered, however, free passes aren't something a big league reliever can get away with consistently.

With only six walks in 24 innings at the Triple-A level, the average fan may not consider the southpaw's control to be a huge factor. In New York it was a different story. Smith surrendered eight walks in only 12 innings during his time in the Bronx. It is vital for a big league reliever to have a short memory and Smith seems to possess that mentality.

"I definitely need to work on my walks and my control and I am down here to do that," said Smith.

A minor league reliever with success at the big league level can result in a boost of confidence. Smith has brought that confidence with him to Columbus. His appearances in New York were solid and to be anything else but confident wouldn't make much sense.

If Smith wishes to contribute to a bullpen and club vying for a postseason berth, he is going to have to have the ability to display that confidence on the mound.

"Coming down here from New York gives me a lot of confidence, but at the same time, you have to stay focused and do what you have to do, even at the Triple-A level," said Smith.

Columbus pitching coach Neil Allen has been impressed with Smith all season and feels the best is still ahead of the southpaw this season. In Monday night's game against Pawtucket, Allen had a decision to make in whether he was going to put Smith in the game in the late innings.

"Matt had worked the previous two games. He has a bright future and is going to be making a lot of money at the big league level and I wouldn't make him work any more than he needs to," said Allen.

Even with Smith's more than solid numbers in Columbus, Allen refuses to overwork him. A team that has a dominant bullpen is without question in the minority of major league clubs and there would be no sense in putting Smith in risk of an injury.

The thought of even having the opportunity to contribute to a big league club win a championship of any sorts thoroughly excites Smith. He is one of the few players currently in Columbus with relatively significant big league experience. Smith is on a mission to return to the Bronx and it's a task he is more than willing to tackle.

"It's exciting and nerve-racking at the same time," said Smith.

The Yankees have lost championships in the past because of a lack of depth in their pitching staff, especially the bullpen. Obviously Smith can't and will not have the ability to carry the New York bullpen on his back, but he has a chance to finally make his mark with the Yankees on the biggest stage of all.

Smith was a name little known by Yankees fans at the beginning of the season. It may be a name not so unfamiliar when it is all said and done.

Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nMatt Smith, 27, was recalled to New York for the first time on April 14th and made his Major League debut at Minnesota, retiring the only batter he faced. That hitter just happened to be American League batting leader Joe Mauer.
\r\n
\r\nIn three stints with the Yankees, Smith has not allowed an earned run over twelve innings and has nine strikeouts.
\r\n
\r\nDuring his time in Columbus, Smith has not allowed an earned run in 16 of 21 appearances, possessing a 2.28 ERA. With only six earned runs in 24 innings, Smith has been labeled with a \"bend but don't break\" mentality. The consistency Smith has delivered to the Columbus pitching staff has earned him the right to make multiple trips to the Bronx.
\r\n
\r\nHaving to make three return trips to the minor leagues can be very lagging and annoying. It is the exact opposite for Smith. Smith is in the process of paying his dues and it may all be well worth it down the road. The southpaw believes playing in Columbus can only help him become an improved reliever out of the bullpen. Smith admits he has more of a focus this time around.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think the first two times I came back here I kind of took everything for granted,\" Smith told PinstripesPlus.com.
\r\n
\r\nControl has been the only issue with Smith in New York. The reliever was fortunate enough to work around many of the walks he surrendered, however, free passes aren't something a big league reliever can get away with consistently.
\r\n
\r\nWith only six walks in 24 innings at the Triple-A level, the average fan may not consider the southpaw's control to be a huge factor. In New York it was a different story. Smith surrendered eight walks in only 12 innings during his time in the Bronx. It is vital for a big league reliever to have a short memory and Smith seems to possess that mentality.
\r\n
\r\n\"I definitely need to work on my walks and my control and I am down here to do that,\" said Smith.
\r\n
\r\nA minor league reliever with success at the big league level can result in a boost of confidence. Smith has brought that confidence with him to Columbus. His appearances in New York were solid and to be anything else but confident wouldn't make much sense.
\r\n
\r\nIf Smith wishes to contribute to a bullpen and club vying for a postseason berth, he is going to have to have the ability to display that confidence on the mound.
\r\n
\r\n\"Coming down here from New York gives me a lot of confidence, but at the same time, you have to stay focused and do what you have to do, even at the Triple-A level,\" said Smith.
\r\n
\r\nColumbus pitching coach Neil Allen has been impressed with Smith all season and feels the best is still ahead of the southpaw this season. In Monday night's game against Pawtucket, Allen had a decision to make in whether he was going to put Smith in the game in the late innings.
\r\n
\r\n\"Matt had worked the previous two games. He has a bright future and is going to be making a lot of money at the big league level and I wouldn't make him work any more than he needs to,\" said Allen.
\r\n
\r\nEven with Smith's more than solid numbers in Columbus, Allen refuses to overwork him. A team that has a dominant bullpen is without question in the minority of major league clubs and there would be no sense in putting Smith in risk of an injury.
\r\n
\r\nThe thought of even having the opportunity to contribute to a big league club win a championship of any sorts thoroughly excites Smith. He is one of the few players currently in Columbus with relatively significant big league experience. Smith is on a mission to return to the Bronx and it's a task he is more than willing to tackle.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's exciting and nerve-racking at the same time,\" said Smith.
\r\n
\r\nThe Yankees have lost championships in the past because of a lack of depth in their pitching staff, especially the bullpen. Obviously Smith can't and will not have the ability to carry the New York bullpen on his back, but he has a chance to finally make his mark with the Yankees on the biggest stage of all.
\r\n
\r\nSmith was a name little known by Yankees fans at the beginning of the season. It may be a name not so unfamiliar when it is all said and done.
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